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Book TV After Words

David Coleman Education. (2012) 'The Fourteenth Day JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.'

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Cuba 33, Khrushchev 28, United States 5, Cia 5, U.s. 4, South Korea 4, Pentagon 3, Us 3, North Korea 3, North Koreans 3, United Nations 3, Bartlett 3, Fbi 2, Kennedy Administration 2, The American Public 2, Stevenson 2, Vietnam 2, Moscow 2, Berlin 2, America 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    David Coleman  Education.  (2012) 'The Fourteenth  
   Day JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.'  

    October 28, 2012
    9:00 - 10:00pm EDT  

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pri's symbol war american southcom of a new underground railroad is a network of safe houses and a secret routes across china. the operator service human traffickers better in that for the money at christians whose religious beliefs and impel them to help their number three in brothers and sisters. thanks to the underground railroad which has been operating for about 12 years and an increasing number of north koreans are reaching safety in the south and a few other countries the explosion in the number of north koreans who gotten out of the recent years is very striking. south korea keeps track of the north koreans to reach south korea, and let me share with you just a couple of the numbers. in 1990, only nine north koreans were able to reach south korea. last year 2,700 north koreans
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reached safety in the south. so, the people who get out now have formed -- there are enough of them that they are educating us about truth of our trivia and there's been several books published about life in north korea, and we now have a much better picture of what the truth of the existence is. ..
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>> you can't even mail a letter so the exiles created a black market in information. they hire chinese couriers to cross the border and deliver messages, or sometimes they deliver chinese cell phones to a north korean relative, tell the relative to go to an area near the border at a certain day and hour, turn on the phone, and receive a phone call from the relative who escaped to a different country. in south korea, north korean exiles formed organizations whose purpose is to get information into north korea, to give just one example, there are
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four radio stations run by north korean exiles that broadcast daily to north creigh -- north korea. the man tray of the kim family regime that north korea is the greatest, most prosperous nation on earth and that the north korean people are the happiest is being exposed for the lie it is. >> watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. up next on booktv, "afterwords," with james hershberg of the cold war international history project. this week, david coleman and his book "the 14th day: jfk and the aftermath of the cuban missile crisis," and in it, they detail the days following october 28th, 1962 and show that the public believed the crisis ended, president kennedy continued to walk a fine diplomatic line to secure the removal of nuclear
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weaponry from cuba. >> host: david, as you know, there's a ton of literature about the cuban missile crisis, most focusing on the 13 days as bobby kennedy's memoir was called in 1969 and the hollywood version. what made you focus on the aftermath? >> guest: two things i wanted to talk about with this book, two tracks that end up dove tailing in the end. first of all, the books that cover the crisis end on the 13th day, october 28th once decided to back down, agreed via radio method to withdraw missiles from cuba. the question, no what? what happened? interestingly, and this is back to what usually happens, we actually know what happened in the weeks and months happened better from russian and cuban
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sources rather than from the america side. i was lucky enough to work with the kennedy tapes during that period, and kennedy was taping intensively in that period, and i had a remarkable window in. i wanted to extend the story at the missile crisis to find out what happened then because on the 13th day, there were missiles in cuba, soviet troops in cuba, and weapons in cuba. >> host: to which the americans department really know about. >> guest: didn't really know about. the point is they said they would remove the missiles, but the soviets lied before. there was a deep skepticism that perhaps this was just a trick because perhaps the crisis was not over, perhaps it was going to get worse. that's one thing i wanted to extend and deepen the crisis.
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second, this is a remarkable period in kennedy's presidency, a pivot point to turn the presidency around. if you do any poll today on the greatest presidents since world war issue, kennedy ranks head and shoulders number one, and the primary reason is the handling of the cuban missile crisis i argue. i wanted to look at the period where kennedy took a presidency that was not going as well as he hoped, and he was able to turn things around and establish a legacy up to the months of 1963. these things dovetail. what we understand about the cuban missile crisis, that it was a kennedy victory, a proud moment for american history, i argue was not inevitable. back to december, january, february of 1963, it was touch and go whether or not this was going to go down as a kennedy victory or failure because his political opponents were trying to paint it as a failure, and so
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i think this battle that's going on with kennedy trying to shake his presidency, define his presidency, and shape his legacy is going on at the same time, but also informs how we understand the missile crisis today. >> host: one of the ironies of history is with ford by written backwards, and written backwards, under the shadow of kennedy's assassination a year later, and one the first books about the crisis across the cover, his finest hour, and they think that was just a try trium, but the book clarifies it was a dicey situation when the crisis seemingly ends, but there were a lot of issues left on the table. your book deals with the question of trust in a way of inspection. ronald reagan said trust but verify, and on the same day they agreed to remove the weapons, castro refused to allow the inspection of any missile
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dismantling and removal from cuba. what were some complications kennedy had to begin with starting october 29th on the issue of inspection and of dealing with the soviet weapons and forces leftover in cuba? >> guest: right, i think the context for this is important to remember that on october 18th, two days after kennedy was shown photographs, the soviet missiles in cuba, they came into the oval office, kennedy asked him flat out, are you installing offensive nuclear missiles in cuba, and they said, no, we're not doing this. unknown to him, kennedy had the 8 by 10 photos. he was lied to directly about the missiles. fast forward two weeks. you got this issue where the soviet premier said we'll remove the missiles. trust us, we'll do it, and for the members of the excon, the issue was not so much trust, but verify, it was verify first.
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there was not trust in the issue. kennedy's on tape talking about the soviet ambassador of the united states was not burned as a source because we can't believe him, not because necessarily he was lying, but there was concern they were not told about this. there were concerns about listening to any soviet diplomats. the thing about being brought to the country, and so kennedy and excom have a promise, but they really have to follow through and work out how to verify first. they talk about how this might, in fact, be a massive trick, a hoax of which history has no parallel so what they have to do is work out how they can do it, and what that involves is american eyes seeing what's happening on the ground. their preference is to send americans weapons inspections into cuba. castro said he's not going to allow that. next best thing is sending american surveillance planes over. that, in itself, is a
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complicated decision. a surveillance plane was shot down. he was still threatening to shoot american planes. low level planes came back with bullet holes. there was accounts after the days when flying over cuba, and so for kennedy, this is a decision -- do i send american pie lots in harm's way? they had to decide it every day. they go through the decision whether or not it's required we send these over today. the verification in this period is about sending american planes over, and that has its risks because what do you do if an american plane is shot down? there is, actually, a remarkable -- we can talk later about the value of the tapes, themselves, but there's a remarkable moment there, on the tapes, that doesn't show up in any other documents, and the date is november 5th, the day before the midterm election. robert kennedy is meeting in his office with the soviet ambassador trying to work out the deals privately about this.
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word just came to kennedy in the oval office that an american sur valance plane, the pentagon told him a surveillance plane may have been shot down. kennedy has the recorder rolling, gets on phone, and talking to bobby kennedy, and kennedy, at this point, thinks, okay, we think a plane is shot down. now, what do we do? he's going through, you know, do air strikes? thinking about all these things about the political pressure to be faced with when this comes out, and so it's one of those remarkable moments you get to hear a president in realtime struggling through, okay, now what do we do? do we, you know, retaliate? send our planes over, nox out the airfields? something like that? it would have reinflamed the crisis. it was a false alarm. they scrambled, but they had not shot down the plane. you get windows and remarkable
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sense of what kennedy is facing, and this is a week after the 13 days. you get a sense of how close military action was during this period. >> one thing that's clear through the years, kennedy was acutely airful of escalation and how future generations look if they lost control of the situation as it happenedded in 1914, but now with nuclear weapons, and, of course, on the 27th, the contingency plan was to shoot down the surface to air missile sites, and kennedy refused to authorize it because of isolation. one of the points your book brings out is it was not just a question whether or not to send planes, but what kind of planes? there were the high level planes, safer, less vulnerable to be shot down, at least by the cubans. the soviets were playing along. they, you know, were not shooting the surface to air missiles, but to get good quality photographs, you had to
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send low level, and those were vulnerable to the cubans. >> guest: that's right. it's worth explaning why they were under control of two systems. the soviets surface to air system was very sophisticated requiring six months of training for anyone to operate it. during the crisis and after, it was still operated by soviet personnel as you point out. the lower level ones, the standard anti-aircraft was controlled, you're right, by the cubans. they had two leaders telling them essentially two different sets of instructions. americans considered the soviets much more republican and trusted them not to shoot down a plane more than the cubans not to. >> host: that is a side issue that's focus of new research which is we remember the october crisis 50 years ago this month. crisis shows there's a secret cube -- cuban-soviet crisis in 1962, it's a title of the new book for the anniversary, about how fidel castro is absolutely furious at
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the soviet. did the americans suspect how bitter that disagreement was? in fact, one of the intense arguments that was had in leadership was castro's insistence for the sake of cuban sovereignty and dignity. firing on the reconnaissance planes, the soviets, you're right, ready to play along of bringing the crisis to resolution. did the americans suspect how bitter the divide was between the soviets and cubans? >> guest: the americans did not have significant information about what was happening, they did not have anyone on the inside, but the cubans did a bad job of hiding how unhappy they were with the soviet. in the intelligence briefings that the president and advisers would get every day, there was updates about what the latest annoyance was, and so they certainly had a sense of it even
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if they didn't know the i want mat details. >> host: did that, at all, help to build renewed trust in khrushchev, and it was not a u.s. official. in congress and american politics, people were saying it's our chance to get rid of the regime. how do we know they won't hide missiles in cabs or anything like that. how did kennedy view khrushchev after he agreed to pull the missiles out? >> guest: i'm not sure. it took awhile. we talkedded about trusting before verifying. i think trusting game gradually again once the surveillance flights were showing the soviets, were, in fact, following through, dismantling
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things, they started to realize, yes, the soviets and khrushchev in particular was actually, you know, perhaps we can trust him, and later on and weeks later, there's moments where trust really comes again because the -- once we get through sort of -- the bookend of the missile crisis is the november 20 deal. >> host: right, when the quarantine ends. >> guest: right. there's long range bombers in cuba, there's three weeks of negotiation about are these or are they not something to get rid of? khrushchev says, dpien -- says, fine, we'll get rid of them. it's an issue of he said something that had not had the opportunity to follow through. he said, yes, we'll get rid of them within 30 days. at that moment, kennedy trusts khrushchev again because he lifts the guarantee with a promise. in the weeks following, once
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they realize the soviets are following through, they are kind of sort of -- if for one of the better words, the responsible parties in this, because, frankly, they did not view the cubans as particularly responsible or stable, and so once they realize that khrushchev was the one playing ball, they ended up trusting more and trusted him on the promise to remove the weapons, promise to remove combat troops in due court, which he didn't in the end, but the element of trust did, actually, build again. >> host: now, as we'll discuss later, you know, many have seen this as a pivot in the entire cold war, that this could have been a moment who kennedy and khrushchev ending or moderating the war, and yet it was cut off by kennedy's assassination a year later, and khrushchev's
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ousting a year after that. are you saying this did not happen overnight when the crisis ended, but it was a gradual process? this was not a immediate sense this is a guy i can do business with and resolve problems all over the place? >> guest: right. the trust element took a blow. the americans and kennedy felt lied to. i think quite justifiably, but that's exactly right. it was a slow process to regain trust, but by the summer of 1963, things took a big step towards that, and kennedy, again, calls for the american university speech june 10th talking about world peace which sounds generic, but that resinated well in the times, and even khrushchev said was the best speech by an american president since roosevelt. you have this, sort of, coming together, trying to work through these difficult problems because at the shared experience of how close things came. >> host: you mentioned the
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long range bombers, and this is an aspect of what kennedy and the advisers had to wrestle with in the days immediately after to withdraw. missiles. there was a loophole by withdrawing weapons you described as offensive meaning kennedy and the advisers could try to negotiate or the soviets to withdraw more than the missiles, and the il-28 bombers were a point of contention. one thing your book brings out to some extent is it's not entirely clear whether the preimminent consideration from the american stand point was military security, national security, or whether domestic politics, public opinion began to enter into the considerations of kennedy and his advisers. how would you analyze that aspect of the issue of trying to resolve the crisis, and what became a real sticking point, not only between the americans and the soviets, but the soviets and the cubans. they were told they could stay, but was dealt another blow that the soviets were going to take
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them out too. >> guest: i think this comes down to how president kennedy went about the business of being president and how he made decisions, that there was no yard rule for any particular decisions for him. there was no particular doctrine that he felt con finded -- confined to. it was not a matter of just deciding that one was one type of weapon satisfied military security requirements or violated them or whatever. it was more of looking at particular issue on its merits, and the way i think about this is contrasting two different problems here. one of them was the il-28s. there's this discussion going on. khrushchev said we'll remove the missiles you describe as offensive, the weapons, so the ecom, kennedy, trying to work out what does "offensive" mean? what can we live with and what is it we can't live with in cuba? there was different ideas on what offensive are and soviet
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doctrine, went get into all the details there. there's a struggling of what the understanding is. now, the long range bombers to the americans, these had about 750 mile range. they could hit a lot of the southeast united states, but they were also very old. they were obsolete, and not much match for the american -- the southeastern united states, but the problem was, and let's backtrack. kennedy, himself, did not think that these were particularly big problems, and, actually, he comes through on the tapes as the one who is least worried about the il-28s, and on tape saying things like, we don't want the deal hung up on these, i thought they were unreasonable getting these out. i mean, he's trying to put himself in khrushchev's position a lot of the time. he's not particularly insistent in getting them out, but he has
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advisers around him who are. he says we have to get these out, even if they are not a military threat in a crin call sense tots -- clinical sense, to the american public, these are not allowed to stay because we can't live with the american public if we allow them to say. kennedy is eventually persuaded that, okay, even if you're not looking at crin call, sort of mill -- clinical sorts of military assessments of what is and is not a threat, you have to get rid of these. looking at the other weapons, there was a lot of other military equipment in cuba -- >> host: and tens of thousands of soviet troops too. >> guest: exactly. the troops are the issue here. the americans thought there was around about 7,000 to 8,000 troops. it started at 8,000, and eventually went up. the top they realized there was about 17,000 troops. in fact, there were around about 42 # ,000.
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they never understood how many were there. on the 23rd of october, so the day after kennedy's speech to the nation, they started sending over low level surveillance planes getting in detail what was on the ground in cuba discovering, there were, in fact, combat troops in cuba. first time they were discovered, four groups around the island. they had sophisticated carrier weapons, sophisticated cannons, nuclear capable rockets. what they are trying to decide is in the weeks after the 13 days is, okay, first priority is getting rid of the il-28s, but do we want to insist on getting troops and weapons out? do we have to go to the map to force khrushchev to pull them out? the decision there is different, and it drags on. it's a lower priority. one of the reasons it's lower priority is they don't look bad to the american public in the
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sense these weapons and troops cannot reach american soil. they are a threat to guantanamo. the marine corp. come daunt has a line about, well, these weapons can deal bloody hell with guantanamo. >> host: the base at guantanamo? >> guest: exactly right. which is on the island of cuba, of course. they couldn't reach the united states, itself, and so these were not considered as urgent a threat. what actually happened is they dropped off the top tier, and they -- by the end of november, after the november 20 # deal, by november 29th, kennedy -- actually, khrushchev says he'll probably remove them in due course, which is the phrase he used, but he really has no incentive to do that anymore, and we don't have any leverage, and the only leverage we can offer is formalize a no invasion guarantee. that's too high a price.
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essentially, maybe we have to live with it. what happened in the end, the soviets for their own arguments with the cubans decided to pull out tactical nuclear weapons. the americans did not force that. the americans also did not force them to pull out the combat troops, although they kept raising it in 1963, still talking about it in weeks before the assassination. a group ended up staying and resurfaced a decade and a half later when nixon is hitting the brigade crisis. >> host: it had been forgotten about. >> guest: it all dates back to the decision in november 1962 that we're not going to make these a top tier priority of forcing them out that the troops end up -- >> host: the mind set in aseesing weapons as offensive rather than defensive. some said to kennedy and around the table that, you know, these
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could be a threat to the hemisphere, cuban subversion, which was greatly feared. in fact, the big fear was that not so much that cuba was a threat, but it was spreading to other countries, and brazil, was feared, would be a second cuba. kennedy and the advisers, tell me, the tapes you studied carefully in the aftermath, and i should mention, of course, david is going to be publishing, been editing volumes of the transfers -- come back to these later -- never accepted khrushchev's public rationale to deploy them, which was to detour an american invasion, detour another bay of pigs, but with the american forces, not cubans. they always put the worst case analysis and why all of these materials were there. is that fair to say that that view never shifted even though some of them were aware of the overt american operations against castro and intended to
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overthrow castro? >> guest: i'll get the first part of the question there too because i think it's interesting. there's an aspect that came through in recent years. first of all, recently, there's been brought out is that talking about the frogs and lunas -- short range, battlefield weapons, a nuclear warhead. soviets sent some around about 98 or so to cuba. now, the original plan the soviets had was to hand, at least, some of these over to the cubans themselves which would have made cuba a nuclear power. when you talk about, you know, kennedy's fear about subversion, there was an aspect of this they did not understand which was, okay, perhaps cuba might, in fact, get nuclear weapons and this is only something we learned more recently. if case -- castro is inclined to share weapons or resources with fellow
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revolutionaries in latin america, there was a sense, hold on -- he was close to getting these weapons, and things could have got out of control. americans did not know this. kennedy thought thed why of handing weapons was absolutely not possible, absurd. he didn't think they would do that. he had no idea that was the plan. that as pelgt of the subversion, i think, is actually -- was much more dangerous than i think they even thought at the time because they didn't realize the aspect that cubans might, in fact, have nuclear tactical weapons. >> host: some did have nuclear payloads they could have delivered. >> guest: a lot they didn't know, but there's military assumptions. >> host: did they understand this dynamic, that came out in the soviet-cuban tensions in november, which is that in order to sort of rescue, salvage, the soviet ewen ban alliance knowing castro was so furious at moscow
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for removing the missiles, they reassured him, the commitment to protecting cuba still existed, and the soviets were desperate to keep as much other than the nuclear weapons, turned out, under cuban control, and to essentially re-- have a trip wire that the americans could not simply invade cuba with impunity, and did the americans understand that, you know, this alliance was in jeopardy? >> guest: well, i think this comes back to the second part of the previous question is that why did khrushchev do this? historians argue why he did it. khrushchev said a few different things why he did it that shifted over time, but settled on the idea that the idea was to defend cuba, and if you go back to the period of the time and look at what kennedy was thinking, this was not really his -- what he thought khrushchev was up to. kennedy looked at a much more
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global game. he did not think, that, you know, khrushchev -- first of all, why would you send long range missiles to protect cuba? it didn't make sense at the time. kennedy is trying to think through why is khrushchev doing this? the idea of defending cuba doesn't come a because kennedy knows full well he's not planning a full invasion anyway. there's other covert going things on against castro, but full invasion is not really probably what he's going to do. he doesn't jump to the defense of cuba idea. he jumps to a global view, and looks halfway around the world where he feels vulnerable, which is west berlin, and he thinks khrushchev has been trying to force the bill in issue since 1968, and that dates back to the blockaid, and this is a festering cold war flash point. kennedy feels vulnerable there
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as eisenhower had and truman had. he thinks maybe it's about west berlin and khrushchev is trying to leverage something here in some way to solve the problem. khrushchev had actually been giving him some evidence this might, in fact, been happening through the summer. khrushchev kept talking to american visitors and west german visitors who visited moscow, and they brought out berlin, that we're going to bring this up in november at the united nations after the midterm elections, and so this, he was broadcasting this through the summer. kennedy read about this, read all the reports, and so their conditioned going into this country sice -- crisis that they were going to force the bill at issue. kennedy keeps coming back to cuba. if you ask kennedy what's khrushchev up to here, and, you know, kennedy, himself, was talk about this on tapes, kennedy says west berlin, and would not say defense of cuba. the defense of cuba angle really doesn't come through a lot from the americans.
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they are not really thinking this through because it doesn't make sense to them or sound like the way you defend cuba is to do this. the way an american suspected in 1962 to defend cuba would be to have a mutual treaty, a warsaw pact-like treaty or send conventional weapons, but not long range weapons to offend the united states. >> host: it's funny, if khrushchev only sent the battlefield weapons, i think kennedy would have had a harder time convincing the world they were offensive weapons. >> guest: absolutely, it was a harder time convincing them they were a threat to the united states. that deterrence angle only works if you announce it, and, of course, -- >> host: what good is a doomsday machine if you don't tell the world? >> guest: exactly. so at the point that the crisis broke, almost everything about this was still secret. now, who knows what he would
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have done, whether he would have gone to the united nations, saying this is done, but deterrence works if the only the other person knows about it. the americans were not told about the missiles, short range or long range ones. >> host: the other aspect behind khrushchev's decision was the nuclear balance, you know, a year before the u.s. revealed that u.s. actually had extreme superiority in strategic striking power assumed this was the way for khrushchev to recoop that on the cheek. let's move to another subject dealt with interestingly in the book. of course, kennedy's concerned about the domestic political ramifications in the week, and it's certainly those even in uniform chiefs of staff that warned if kennedy did not act strongly, he was told this is apiecement.
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the issue of managing public opinion is something you bring out interesting, not just during the crisis because it's well-known that when the excom met before kennedy's speech, there were efforts by kennedy to contact publishers to hold off, but the news management angle in the aftermath, talk about that. >> guest: this dates back to the summer of 1962, and kennedy is concerned about leaks of national security information turning up on the front page of the "new york times". there's estimates that are very high level intelligence estimates that are actuallily fairly widely distributed, several hundred people get them, but fairly highly classified at the same time. presidents don't like it when estimates end up on the front page of the "new york times". kennedy is trying to crack down on leaks and a way to stop leaks from happening. he entertains ideas.
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the fbi is investigating these, and he brings in a group of advisers who are not very widely known. they are the president's foreign intelligence advisory board. this is a group that does not have its own power like the cia. all they do, as you get from the name, is advise the president. the president says -- has complete control over who is on this board. now, he asked this group to come up with a recommendation. they came back and said what you need is get the cia to do this. the fbi can try it, but they are not particularly good at it because the agents don't have the clearances. they are not schooled in the back round issues. you need the cia to do this. they recommended having the cia spy on american journalists, directly against the national security act that forms the cia.
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the cia is supposed to operate extermly, not internally. kennedy authorizes the program, the program that's called project mocking bird. we know little about it because it's still classified, but it was one of the items in the cia family jewels that the full set was released in 2006 or 2007 so this program in the summer of 1962 is when kennedy's starting to crack down drastically on leaks. during the crisis, fast forward a little bit, the white house had intense control over information, and you would expect that. it was a moment of crisis. you don't want to broadcast what's happening to your enemies, but after the missile crisis, the administration continued to control the information. now, that has two effects. one of them is you have a specific story coming out, you have control of the story. if the press is clam moriing at this point, i mean, think about in the place of a reporter or
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journalist or editor at this point, you've just had this massive close call with nuclear annihilation. you want to know what happened, you want the scoop. reporters were clammoring to see what happened. kennedy said, all right, we're not going to sort of open the top on this. we're going to very cayfully control the information that gets out there. that controls the story that's hitting the press, but it also annoys the press because the press doesn't want to be spoon fed information and consider itself propaganda messages. you end up with a massive backlash there reporters that drags on for months, and it's sparked by an assistant secretary of defense by the name of arthur, and he was the chief spokesman for the pentagon. he's on record, perhaps he was too tired, i don't know, but he
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told the reporter, of course, government uses information as a weapon in times of crisis, which everyone knew as self-evident, but no one wanted anyone to say it. a pentagon spokesperson was on record sparking massive outcry from the press about news management that the kennedy administration manipulated the news. >> host: it's in press leaks and foreign affairs are important. we have to take a quick break, and we'll come back to this in a few moments. thank you. >> guest: thanks. >> host: david, we talked about kennedy's news management and relations with the press. one of the fascinating things about the book is it surprise z
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those looking back at this point, they think of lin -- lyndon johnson's paranoia, the press against him, and press secretaries who dealt with it, and then, of course, richard nixon, the plumbers, and the slippery slope to what it is. has jfk gotten a free ride because he is usually remembered as being buddy buddy with some reporters, and he actually had reported younger in his life, and had good relations with some of the press. >> guest: that's right. yeah, there's a general perception that kennedy's press coverage was quite fawning, and it was in the beginning, but as you point out, kennedy knew this wort very well. he had been a reporter. he had a fascination with how the media world worked, not just about how reporters did their job, but how newspapers stayed in business and everything else. he had very close friends who were reporters and editors who
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he invited to dinner, invited to the white house for dinner and stuff like that. he knew this world very, very well, but at the beginning of his presidency, he had close to fawning press coverage, frankly, but it soured quite badly, again, in the summer of 1962 where things get more difficult for him, and you start seeing some stories in the press around that time about the honeymoon is over essentially. you know, this often happens with a new president. kennedy came that as an unknown quantity. this is not the press starting to sour. this is 58s reflected in the poll -- this is also reflected in the polls at the time. when he came into office, he had very high polls, but he also had high undecided numbers. people out there had not yet formed an opinion. now, as his presidency continued, a lot of the people who started out without an opinion actually started forming
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more of a negative opinion. he had started sort of sour souring on the polls, the american public, and the press. by the summer of 1962, the press relationship is getting more prickly, and this cuban missile crisis ends up being this sort of spark for a much more confrontational relationship with the press because as we were talking about before, the press -- there's a massive press backlash about kennedy's press policies, and some of the things the white house was doing, for instance, was before this moment, there was basically open season on any white house staffer could essentially talk to reporters, and charming, you go to lunch, talk about it, and there was not a whole lot of oversight about what was happening. on october 31st, i believe it was, kennedy and the meeting
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complaining about another press leak, and he says, all right, this is it. we're going to clamp down. i'm not going to talk to the press, and there's only a couple people here allowedded to talk to the press about this. his white house press secretary does something fairly unusual. he goes immediately from that meeting, writes out a meme toe, types out a memo saying you understand that you will not be talking to the press, and if you do, you have to write, submit in writing who you spoke to them, when you spoke to them, and what you spoke to them. this is the white house press secretary. he takes the memo, and rather than circulating it, he walked around the office and got every person in staff to sign this. there's just one copy of this with the signatures saying they agree to do this. after that, each member of the white house staff, if they spoke to a reporter, they actually had to document what the conversation was and who it was about, who it was with, and when it was. this has the effect of
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essentially chilling press policy. the pentagon is doing something similar, making people more accountable, and the cia was doing it for quite a while. this, again, has two effects. one of them that it is clamping down on the flow of information, and that sort of is good for the white house because they can control things better, but it's not necessarily as good for the american public or good for reporters. the odd thing about this, though, it actually it's a very interesting thing for a historian because what you end up having is all of the memos about who was talking to what reporters. if you want to work out, you know, the carlses the reporters used for particular stories, go back to the memos and find out when they told them certain things. this is very interesting in the wake of the crisis, there were a number of article les coming out, some fawning about what happened, and some of them more critical, and one that was critical -- well, not so much, but with adalay stevenson, and
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one with charles bartlett -- >> host: saturday evening post -- >> guest: exactly. what happened in the coming days. he was a friend of kennedys, responsible for introducing jack and jackie originally, and so this article came out, and one of the items in there was that stevenson had been soft with the implication he was willing to appease the soviets. he wanted a mew nick, and this -- munich, and stevenson was definitely one of the dogs amongst the advisers, but it was an unfair accusation that he was not alone in recommending this. this article comes out, skewing stevenson, who had a wonderful presentation of the united
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nations, but the implication comes out then that kennedy authorized this himself, that he is the source for the bartlett article. what you can do now as a historian is we can go back and work out who charlie talked to in the white house, when he talked to them. we can look at the memos -- >> host: that presumes people honestly abided by this. >> guest: it's interesting. they generally did. i mean, this is, you know, they are telling everyone this is from the president, it's unusual. they got to do it for awhile. it faded off a bit, but in those initial days, they were playing ball about writing the memos, and you can go in and worked out who he talked to, when they talked to them, when the source was, and there's interesting information we have not quite got the smoking gun, but you can see it's coming from the military advisers, the white house, and kennedy told bartlett to talk to wheeler in the pentagon, and so for historians,
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you have an oddly, compelling, and very useful source you wouldn't have otherwise got. at the time any way, but back to the story, the press responded very negatively to the clamp down and chill to press coverage >> host: kennedy was one of those presidents who could be the chief himself, and, you know, it's clear that while there was this negative backlash which you document in the press, there were certainly some select reporters who were spoon-fed tidbits to put the administration in the best light, and in that article you mentioned, there's the famous quote, we were eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow just blinked creating the image of kennedy as the cool, calculating poker player who outplayed khrushchev. despite the backlash, do you think kennedy was fairly successful in creating the first draft of history in the public
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impressions of how the crisis was handled? >> guest: absolutely. two things going on here. the press is responding negatively to this, but the other is the white house controls the message. they didn't stop the message. kennedy knew better than to completely cut off stories to the press, but what they did was control it and siphon off bits of information to reporters, and they really were trying to control the story. there's no question about that if you go back and do it, but that part of the problem is that they were siphoning off to reporters that they liked, bits of information, and getting bits of the story out there trying to clamp down on anything negative. >> host: looking back, retrospectively, what they were doing is taken for granted now, but then there was the outrage. >> guest: 1962, after watergate, off vietnam, we are cynical about white house press relations, but this is 1962-63,
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much more naive in that sense. >> host: moving to a related aspect, although this press and news management campaign continued beyond the election in november, talk about the domestic political aspect of the missile crisis and aftermath because in the context of the kennedy presidency, you know, this was really a crucial moment if he was going to be able to improve his record, his legislative record. tell me about how politics fit into kennedy's handling of the crisis and the aftermath. >> guest: right. kennedy was first shown photos of the missile sites on october 16th. on october 16th, kennedy's presidency had not been going especially well. that was especially true of the cuban issue. go back to the previous issue, his handling on the bay of pigs, got a boost in the poll, but it was nos a great moment of his presidency to say the least. after the bay of pigs, heading into the elections of 1962,
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america identified cuba a weakness of kennedy, and it was a campaign strategy, attack the administration on cuba. they had been doing that through the summer. on october 16th, kennedy is on the defensive about cuba. this is not an issue he wants to talk to with the lexes, but talk about medicare, anything other than cuba because he's weak on this, and then by implication thought they would lose more seats, but he was not on the ballot because of the midterm election. republicans had been aiming to use this. senator keating from new york, most vocal, on the senate floor about every day saying, you know, there's missiles going to florida, refugee reports, administration turning a blind eye, attacking them for months on this. the issue had been sort of percolating for a long time,
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come up in september, kennedy had to put out press statements saying we know about the build up, but it's not a threat to us so it's fine. >> host: tougher because kennedy, himself, attacked nixon for being insufficient against castro two years earlier. republicans were happy to bring it up years later. >> guest: it's a public moment suddenly. the critics silence themselves. this is a moment to rally around the flag, and keating said the president has our full support, we're not going to, in this moment of crisis, jeopardize the united states' chance of victory here, but once khrushchev breaks, that cease fire breaks immediately because it's nine to ten days out from election. republicans start asking good questions about why didn't we find out about he's earlier? was the kennedy administration negligent about sending surveillance flights over cuba?
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why the gaps? why didn't we know about it? is it a massive intelligence failure? some go further. is the kennedy administration covering up here? did the kennedy administration even manufacture this october surprise in order for political gain? this breaks when khrushchev breaks down. there's an intense period of political attacks coming. in the leadup to the election, but actually dragged on through the middle of fab 1963. they drag on for months because there's questions here. it's a good question. why didn't the u.s. find out about these earlier? >> host: for the audience, this is taped in the middle of october 2012, very comparable to republican accusations about obama and libya. >> guest: contactually right. >> host: it's a perennial thing. when there's an issue of an attack, you go with it. > guest: there's a strong attack from the right, lead up to the midterm election, and it
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endures after that. this is what -- part of what kennedy's facing with trying to control the message. it's not just about making kennedy look good. any president is going to want to -- want good press, anyone wants good press. part of it is just trying to get good press, but in controlling the message, is also trying to not let critics define him. now, if we think that through a little bit, what would have happened if the republicans had turned this into a kennedy failure, if, instead of us now remembering this as a kennedy victory, a great moment in the cold war battle, but instead talk about like it was another bay of pigs for kennedy, another weakened moment he should have known he was negligent or any of those aspects, if you think about that, the implications for kennedy at the time were enormous. he was having a hard enough time getting legislation through congress then anyway, and if he was further weakened by the massive, this perceived -- he
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would have had more difficulty through 1963, especially going into the 1964 election. he has a vested interest in trying to get the program passed by fending off attacks. he possibly, he wouldn't have had the political capital to do things like the university speech and get a day taunt happening in 1963. he might not have had the political capital to get the test ban treaty through. there's practical reasons why he wanted to control the message and the attacks going on during this period. >> host: i want to challenge you on one thing you write about in the book. you had the domestic political angle which is pretty much have actions in the crisis, and, yet, it's clear that jfk had an
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interest in not looking weak or providing openings to give into nuclear power, and do you believe political terms were giving way? the refusal to consider a public trade of the american jupiter missiles in turkey where the soviet missiles in cuba. critics said he didn't want to risk looking weak, and we get into the crisis in the first place, what they said, this is not a military problem, but a military problem. what extent is domestic politics contributing to jfk's decision making during an after the crisis? >> guest: the way i tried to handle this in the book is that the way you framed, did domestic political considerations influence his policy?
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i say absolutely, but i would form a distinction here about partisan political considerations in the sense that this is trying to help, you know, his re-election, trying to help democrats and trying to attack republicans. you do not get to be president without thinking about political considerations in everything you do. not just sort of making a decision, but this is part of who you are as president. you have to think on behalf of how this will be perceived in the broader american public. he is constantly thinking about that in the 13 days over after. how is this going to play out in the public? the distinction there, and i would call that sort of political awareness, and that is constant part of who he is, and not just during the missile crisis, but in everything he does, whether it's vietnam policy, tax policy, civil rights, constantly thinking about how will this play out and how is this going to look? i would very carefully draw the distinction between that and
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partisan politics in a superficial sense. i do not believe he was partisan in the superficial sense that we like to talk about that was a political decision and things like that, and a lot of the time -- we mean that superficially as a partisan way, but in a much deeper way, i think he was absolutely aware of the political ramifications, but it just wasn't -- he was careful, for instance, to brief dwight eisenhower, at that point, one the leading republican figures, gave him special briefings in the crisis, called him on the tfn, we have those recordings. he sent the cia director, director of central intelligence, john mccohen, tight in republican party politics at this point, sent him to brief eisenhower. whenever there were -- he was briefing congressional leaders, it was a bipartisan affair, not getting democratic leaders on the phone giving them privileged information. he was carriful to be bipartisan
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in the political awareness. >> host: the recordings suggested that jfk and the advisers were not so much fearful or at least not so unfearful that if they accepted a public trade if that would appear weak to american domestic political audiences, but appear weak to nato they betrayed aen ally or sacrificed an ally's interest, and, you know, but the net result was the same that the deal was kept secret in the end. >> guest: exactly, yeah, that's right. if you're in a moment of crisis like this trying to negotiate things like how to get out of the crisis, whether to trade missiles or anything like that, you, naturally, want to be in the strongest possible position, and you don't do that by volunteering information or volunteering things that are potentially going to invite attacks or invite -- i mean, it's just natural. it's how you govern essentially. as i said, go back, and part of this, too, is that kennedy had around him a very close-knit
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group, often called the boston mafia or kennedy mafia or whatever. there were people back in the political career very left leaning, generally very deep into democratic politics, but in the excom and cabinet in particular, he was surrounding himself with a remarkably centris range of people and several republicans. john mccain, robert, secretary of the treasury, a republican. he made sure a lot of the advisers were actually very central. he was not getting very left leaning partisan people around him when he was making a lot of the very important decisions. >> host: just a couple minutes left. let me ask one last question about the tapes, and you dedicated many years of your life to the project of the university of virginia and recording project.
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talk a little bit both about the value of the tapes antepitfalls. you relied on them heavily, and because of the tapes are so wonderful, we can focus too much on them, and there could be a danger to that. displg absolutely. as you -- >> guest: absolutely. we've been working on these tapes, all six presidencies taped in the white house, since about 1998 when the program was formed, and it's not just me wok working on this, of course, colleagues, students, scholars work on this. we're trying to work through this remarken resource, but they do have to be used with care, and i've tried to do -- be careful about doing that in the book. it's very tempting to write a book that's essentially a list of transcripts, and there's a lot of use for historical reference in doing that, and we do that as part of the work. what i wanted to do with this story is kind

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